THUMBS UP TO … positive trends. Several local school board meetings have involved district officials talking about the influx of revenue from the state as a result of the shift to an evidence-based funding formula. These aren’t small amounts, but hundreds of thousands of dollars after years of dealing with a less fair formula as well as the state failing to meet its own substandard obligations.
Most local districts struggled to a certain degree over a long period of Statehouse malfeasance with regard to education funding. Positions were eliminated, programs cut, schools closed, enrollment dropped. And while it’s never safe to think the ship’s course has been permanently righted, we note that in the moment, superintendents are breathing cautious sighs of relief that perhaps the worst is over. Hopefully lessons learned during the down time will help districts manage future fallow periods. We know for sure we can’t rely on the state to provide.
THUMBS DOWN TO … the end of the road. It perhaps seemed inevitable — arguably for several years now — that the Peru Mall would lose its Bergner’s store. First Sears went, then JC Penney, and now the mall’s final anchor department store is destined for closure. According to Business Insider, a bankruptcy court filing last week showed the Peru Bergner’s is on a list of stores planned to be liquidated as part of the sale of parent company Bon-Ton Stores.
It’s hard to find a silver lining. The loss of the final anchor is bad news for the mall and retail scene at large, to say nothing of the many loyal Bergner’s employees who now will need to find alternative employment. We’re encouraged by the optimism characteristic of Peru Economic Development Director Bob Vickrey and hope his predictions for the mall’s future indeed come true. Still, the final days of Bergner’s will mark the end of an important era in La Salle County, and that’s a sad conclusion, even if it’s only temporary.
THUMBS UP TO … a happy return. There was a major announcement at last week’s Marseilles City Council meeting — this year’s Fun Days celebration will include a carnival, marking the first time for such an attraction since the 2013 flood. The carnival will be on Lincoln Street across from City Hall, and it’s safe to say there will be an extra air of excitement as the rides and games mark another milestone on the city’s path to renewal and restoration following the destructive deluge.
In the grand scheme, it’s just a carnival, something any town can survive without. But Fun Days is and always has been a celebration of Marseilles’ community spirit, and there’s no denying the flood took away a key component of the festivities. Having it back, even all these years later, is indeed a reason to get excited about summer in Marseilles.
THUMBS DOWN TO … clouds of confusion. There’s an occasional newsroom debate about whether governments that don’t meet statutory transparency requirements are acting in secret, conspiring to hide information from the public or just plain overlooking obligation. But whatever the underlying reason, there’s clearly room for improvement. A recent Citizens Advocacy Center audit looked at the websites of more than 750 Illinois governments and found only 73 percent properly posted notices of upcoming meetings, only 57 percent posted proposed meeting agendas and only 48 percent posted approved final minutes.
Keep this in mind when you read about things like House Bill 4232, which would end the requirement that school districts publish annual statements in newspapers in favor of letting them do so on the State Board of Education website and posting a hard copy in the district office. If these agencies can’t meet the current rules for online posting, what’s the sense in shifting even further in that direction? We agree the Legislature should be involved in making sure taxpayers are informed, but it’s hard to see where this plan improves a situation in need of work.